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Tkacik Group

Information Processing in Biological Systems

How do networks built out of biological components – neurons, signaling molecules, genes, or even cooperating organisms – process information? In contrast to engineered systems, biological networks operate under strong constraints due to noise, limited energy, or specificity, yet nevertheless perform their functions reliably. The group uses biophysics and information theory to understand the principles and mechanisms behind this remarkable phenomenon.

How can cells in a multicellular organism reproducibly decide what tissue they are going to become? How do neurons in the retina cooperate to best encode visual information into neural spikes? How does the physics at the microscopic scale, which dictates how individual regulatory molecules interact with each other, constrain the kinds of regulatory networks that are observed in real organisms today, and how can such networks evolve? These are some of the questions addressed by the Tkačik group. About half of their time is dedicated to data-driven projects performed in close collaboration with experimentalists, and half on purely theoretical projects. Their goal is to develop theoretical ideas about biological network function and connect them to high-precision data.


Image of Sofia Backlund

Sofia Backlund

PhD Student

Image of Reka Borbely

Reka Borbely

PhD Student

Image of Céline Camila Coraly Bräutigam

Céline Camila Coraly Bräutigam

PhD Student

Image of Heloisa Chiossi

Heloisa Chiossi


Image of Athina Diakogianni

Athina Diakogianni

PhD Student

Image of Krishnan Iyer

Krishnan Iyer


Image of Ekaterina Maksimova

Ekaterina Maksimova

PhD Student

Image of Anuj Patel

Anuj Patel

PhD Student

Image of Tetiana Rabiichuk

Tetiana Rabiichuk

PhD Student

Image of Simon Rella

Simon Rella

PhD Student

Image of Julian Renaud

Julian Renaud

PhD Student

Image of Natalia Ruzickova

Natalia Ruzickova

PhD Student

Image of Puzhen Xia

Puzhen Xia

PhD Student

Image of Bahti Zakirov

Bahti Zakirov

PhD Student

Current Projects

Visual encoding in the retina | Genetic regulation during early embryogenesis | Collective dynamics | Evolution of gene regulation


Brückner D, Tkačik G. 2024. Information content and optimization of self-organized developmental systems. PNAS. 121(23), e2322326121. View

Hledik M. 2024. Genetic information and biological optimization. Institute of Science and Technology Austria. View

Nomura K, Rella S, Merritt H, Baltussen M, Bird D, Tjuka A, Falk D. 2024. Tipping points of space debris in low earth orbit. International Journal of the Commons. 18(1). View

Nardin M, Csicsvari JL, Tkačik G, Savin C. 2023. The structure of hippocampal CA1 interactions optimizes spatial coding across experience. The Journal of Neuroscience. 43(48), 8140–8156. View

Lombardi F, Herrmann HJ, Parrino L, Plenz D, Scarpetta S, Vaudano AE, De Arcangelis L, Shriki O. 2023. Beyond pulsed inhibition: Alpha oscillations modulate attenuation and amplification of neural activity in the awake resting state. Cell Reports. 42(10), 113162. View

View All Publications

ReX-Link: Gasper Tkacik


Since 2017 Professor, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA)
2011 – 2016 Assistant Professor, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA)
2008 – 2010 Postdoc, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
2007 Postdoc, Princeton University, USA
2007 PhD, Princeton University, USA

Selected Distinctions

2023 ERC Synergy Grant
2020 Ignaz L. Lieben Award (ÖAW)
2018 HFSP Grant
2012 HFSP Grant
2003 Burroughs-Wellcome Fellowship, Princeton University
2002 Golden Sign of the University of Ljubljana

Additional Information

Open Tkacik group website
Physics & Beyond at ISTA

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